Thursday, August 29, 2013

This Thing Called Life

I’m doing it.

I’m doing it as best I can.

I'm doing it by rote some days.

I’m doing it in survival mode some days.

I’m doing it with all the patience and humor I can muster every day.

I’m doing it with an awful lot of impatience and frustration, too.

I’m doing it with tears and laughter and self-doubt and prayers and determination.

I’m doing it with yelling and slammed doors and some sharp words, as well.

I’m doing it with hope that tomorrow will be easier.

I’m doing it when that tomorrow is even more painful or difficult than any day before it.

I'm really trying to enjoy it, but oftentimes I just do it because I have no alternatives.

I'm doing it when there are moments of joy.

I’m doing it when it isn't enjoyable, too.

I’m doing it because no one else will.

I'm doing it for those times when I feel a sheer rush of exhilaration.

I’m doing it when it’s bone crushing hard work.

I'm doing it and trying to learn something new each day.

I’m doing it when the day’s events bore me to tears.

I’m doing it when it’s nothing but disappointments and failed plans.

I’m doing it even on days when the nicest thing I could say about it is nothing at all.

I hope someday I can be less critical of how I'm doing it.

This thing called life…

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hand the Girl a Coke

In 1971 I was a blond-haired, blue-eyed second grader at Dean Goodsell Elementary School.  Mrs. Inez Nelson was my teacher and the most devastating thing that happened to me that year was not getting invited to Cherie Kelsey's birthday party.

1971 is also the year I fell in love with Coca Cola.

It was this commercial.  Even today it still ranks as one of my all-time favorites!

And I don't mean it was the soft drink that I fell in love with.  My family rarely drank soda or pop... or as we called it soda pop.  That is a bad habit I didn't pick up until my college years.  What I fell for was the whole idea of granola-munching, tree-hugging, sandal-clad people (even though I'd never think to string those descriptions together until much later in life) whose only interest was sharing the love worldwide.  Seeing this on tv is about as radical hippie-peace-freak as my ultra conservative little community ever got.
I'd like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love.
Grow apple trees and honey bees...
And snow white turtle doves!
What a way to sell a lifestyle!  And Coca Cola was at the very center of it.  When I pick one up today, that's still the jingle I hear begin inside my head more than 40 years later.  That's powerful!

Last night and today, the social media world is buzzing about Miley Cyrus' performance... appearance... spectacle... I'm not sure what to call it at the 2013 MTV Awards.  Except shocking.  It was shocking!  And it leaves me wondering if she, and other young (and often equally shocking) performers today are shaping the thoughts of today's youth the way this Coke commercial affected me.

If you're a parent, that's got to be a sobering and frightening thing to consider!

Rather than rant with outrage like so many folks are doing, maybe today I'm going to just retreat into my happy place and count it as a blessing that I won't be here to know what the world is like in 2055.

Now... hand me a Coke!!  I'm gonna go work on furnishing that home with love!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Dog Fight

Thunder has the stand up ears.  Lightning's stents broke skin and we
removed them so his ears flop.  The vet tells me this can be "fixed"
and so that's our plan as soon as money is available to do it!
This is their 6 month picture.
I've always thought that if you spent all the money to get papered dogs you should breed them.  And that's been our plan all along... when the boys mature, find someone with good quality females and let them make some babies.  But getting them through this teenage hormone rush to actually be mature dogs might just change my mind!  It's surely challenging my patience!!

Yesterday, from early afternoon until after midnight was a series of battles.  It ended with both dogs having bloody, though not serious, wounds and me sitting on the couch shaking from stress.

Rounds 1, 2 and 3 were the usual posturing for dominance, complete with bared teeth, snarls and gobs of slobber.  It's the part of their arguing that looks terrifying but rarely goes past the point of posturing.  I don't like that they do it, but I know what it is and how to deal with it.

Round 4 is where when it started going farther.  Thunder's nose got nicked and bled profusely.  There were blood spatters all over the basement floor and up the walls.  A little time, half a roll of paper towels and nearly a full bottle of peroxide later the crime scene motif was gone.

Rounds 5 and 6 were minor scuffles but Thunder's wound got reopened and bled more.  We have an old comforter tossed on the couch downstairs for times when the AC leaves us shivering.  It now looks like it might have once held a bloody corpse in its folds...

Round 7 was time for retribution, I guess.  Lightning ended up with a gash, probably a bite, on his lower front leg.  It looks to be just less than an inch long, fairly deep and ran a stream of blood for almost an hour.  He didn't want to put weight on it for awhile but seemed ok walking by the time we went to bed.

Round 8 found me spread eagled on my tummy over the ottoman with elbows locked and a dog collar in each hand to keep them separated.  That's where Derek found us when he got off work at 12:00 and rushed to answer my SOS call.

In between these fight rounds they are the best of friends.  They will sit and lick each other's wounds with the utmost of concern... the very wounds they just inflicted only moments before.  And run and play and eat from the same dish side by side.  Maybe they are perfectly normal boys?  I don't know.  But I find their behavior completely disconcerting.

While they're being playful and cute and lovey, I still think they'd make awfully cute babies.  And then in the next breath, while they're fighting, my mind screams... cut the nuts!  I don't know yet if we'll get them neutered right away or try to survive their unaltered adolescence awhile longer.

What I do know is that last night was difficult to endure!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lizard in the House

Between trips up to shuffle dogs in and outside, I sat down and was looking at Facebook and Pinterest... you know, killing time.  Something caught my attention on the floor near our walkout basement door and when I got up to investigate it was a little lizard, maybe 2 1/2 to 3 inches long, with gray and tan stripes going the length of its body and a brilliant blue tail.

Decision point:  Do I freak out, climb back on the couch with my legs tucked under me screaming "Lizard!!" and hyperventilating or do I worry more about if it's poisonous or just a curiousity if the dogs get ahold of it?

It's already been a rough day with dogs making messes (and chewing up remotes and 'helping' me bring dirty clothes down to the laundry) and price gouging by a plumber.  Of all the service people I've ever needed to call in to help on a house project, it's the plumber that always leaves me feeling like my checkbook has been raped.  Seriously... It was almost $300 to replace a 7" piece of copper pipe and another $200 to flush the drain in our shower.  I shot him down when he wanted $215 each to put handles on the water spigots outside.  That's a $2 part at Home Depot and while I have no clue how to do it right now, I'm a smart girl and for that price I will figure it out.

Enough rant.  Obviously, the plumber has me a little disgruntled and upset...  So freaking out about the lizard would have been easy.  Oh, what a fit I could have pitched!

But I didn't.

I Googled it instead.  If the reports about the NSA keeping tabs on our computer activities is true at all, I bet someone finds my Google search record both fascinating and... disturbing.  Probably more disturbing than fascinating, really.

Oh well.  Back to the lizard...

It's a Brittle Blue Tailed Lizard that's seemingly taken up residence in our basement.  It's there along with a couple of cave crickets I've been ignoring since it's supposedly bad luck to kill the little beasties and I haven't been bothered by them quite enough to find a cup, dance around like a maniac and catch them for release outside.  My laziness has granted them a reprieve and probably will with the lizard, too.  I'm not too proud to admit that.  Ignoring it gets me out of doing a lot of stuff. Or I guess if I'm putting it in more flattering terms... Unless it poses a real threat I'm pretty much of the opinion 'live and let live.'  And this little lizard doesn't seem to be any threat at all.

Photo from
This one isn't who's in my basement... he (or she?) moved too fast for me to get a picture.  I didn't even get a single bad shot so I'm borrowing one from someone else who's had a lizardly encounter.  These blue tails are non-poisonous, eat lots of insects in the garden and around the foundation of a house.  I understand they will bite if cornered and provoked, but it sounds like even the bite is no big deal to human or dog.  That bright blue tail is a decoy device and it breaks off if you grab it then the lizard grows a new one.  Going out on a limb here and saying that's the 'brittle' part of it's name?

All those advice memes urging you to do something you've never done before... yeah, I think I'm good on new things for awhile now.  Thank you very much!  Seems like almost every day lately has been throwing me into doing new things.  Willingly often; otherwise pretty frequently, too.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Crusty Bread Love

Today it was rainy and cold... it felt much more like October than August and so it seemed like my best shot in months at a bread baking day.  Besides, there's a recipe I've been holding back for just such circumstances.  It's one of those recipes that sounds almost too good to be true.  There's only 4 ingredients, no kneading and the promise of an amazing rustic crust.  I mixed it up this morning and left it to sit the requisite 12 hours.  It just came out of the oven.  Of course, I couldn't wait to take a taste!

Here's a link to the recipe I followed for Super Amazing Easiest Bread.

Yes!  It is as crusty as it looks and it cracked open like that all by itself!!

What I loved about this bread, besides the fact that it was beyond beginner level easy, was the crust.  OH MY GOODNESS!!!  The crust is amazing!  While I think I will get a sourdough starter bubbling away again and use it for bread, I am definitely going to be baking it using this method.

Just learning how to get that amazing crust was worth the effort of making this bread today!

Seriously!  The crust is that good!!

The texture, or crumb, of the bread is nice!
And I sliced it just moments after pulling it from the oven.
In the linked recipe, she mentions that she reduced the salt from 1 3/4 tsp down to 1 tsp.  I'd put it back to 1 3/4... I didn't think it tasted like it had nearly enough salt.  It was flat like that first generation no sodium bread from 30 years ago.  More salt would probably take care of most of what I thought it was lacking in the flavor.  [Edit:  It did seem extraordinarily flat tasting when it was fresh from the oven, but when I had more this morning it is actually pretty darn good bread as is.  I admit it... I rushed to judgement!] The addition of other flavorful ingredients would also be a tremendous boost in taste.

Maybe I will try this recipe one more time and add some parmesan cheese, Italian herbs and garlic powder.  A bit of finely chopped olive salad and some shredded sharp cheddar would also make a delicious variety of this bread.  And so would just some dried rosemary, then serve it with a little bowl of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar (aka Italian butter) for dipping.

And... I'm sorry, sweetheart, but we WILL be buying some covered clay baking pans.  Not sure where we're going to find them yet, but find them we will!  My one covered casserole dish that's big enough to hold a loaf just isn't going take care of all the baking I want to do.

Friday, August 16, 2013

O.R.E.O. In a cupcake!

Who doesn't love Oreos?

I sure do!

And that's why it intrigued me so when I saw these Oreo Cupcakes with Cookies & Cream Frosting on... my Facebook feed.  You thought I was going to say Pinterest didn't you?

I didn't exactly follow her recipe, though.  Me and Betty Crocker are kind of BFFs and walking through the store she winked at me as if to say "scratch cake?  Girl, ain't nobody got time for that!!"  So I used a boxed cake mix.

Like you don't!

Oh... you don't?

Well I did.  And I can sleep perfectly well knowing I'm not the perfect Holly Homemaker.  Thank you very much!  I did, however, use her frosting recipe (below I've extracted it from her overall instructions).  And it is AMAZING!!  I've never made frosting like that before, but I'm thinking I will in the future.

Misbehaving puppies distracted me from taking more pictures tonight.  Yes... I frequently cup their sweet little faces in my hands, hold them close and tell them they are dang lucky they are so cute!  Dang lucky!!

Here's what I did:
Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350F.
Step 2:  Put 18 liners into the individual cups of cupcake tin(s).  (Mine hold 12 so I have to use 2 tins.  I want one that holds 18... but I do not have it yet.)
Step 3:  Place an oreo into each cup.
Step 4:  Mix a chocolate cake mix according to package instructions.  Or make your own if you're all into that sort of stuff.
Step 5:  Divide cake batter equally amongst the 18 cups.  Bake.  Cool.
Step 6:  Crush 10-12 Oreos.  (It works well to put them in a ziplock bag and roll over them a few times with a rolling pin.)
Step 7:  Make frosting.
Step 8:  Spoon into a decorating bag so you can pipe it onto cupcakes.  (I tried, semi-successfully, to fake it using a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off.)
Step 9:  Decorate the top of each with another Oreo.
Step 10:  Admire your hard work for a moment then devour!  Leftovers (in the unlikely circumstance there are leftovers) should be refrigerated.

Not as pretty as my inspiration... but I promise they're gonna
look a whole lot worse than this in just a few minutes!

Cookies & Cream Frosting
In a small saucepan, combine 5 Tbl all-purpose flour with 1 cup milk.  (I used whole and the recipe I was following said she used 1% so I think you can just use whatever it is you have in the fridge for your family to drink.)  Heat over medium-low, whisking continually, until very thick.  Remove from heat.  Cover with plastic wrap pressing the film onto the surface of the 'custard' so it doesn't form a crust as it cools.  Place in the fridge for 10 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 cup soft butter until smooth and fluffy.  Add 1 tsp vanilla and beat another 30 seconds or so.  Add cooled milk/flour mixture from above and beat on high until it's the consistency of stiff whipped cream.  This will take 3 minutes or more, probably more.  When you think it might be ready, get a little blob on your finger and test it.  If it isn't like whipped cream... you're not done beating it!

Stir in the crushed Oreos.

That's it!  Isn't that a different way to make frosting?

I really thought it would be less sweet because it has so much less sugar in it but it's not.  It's creamy and fluffy yet rich and light at the same time.  Delicious!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Today I Saved A Life

Today I had the opportunity to visit the Fulton County Animal Shelter in Atlanta.  By most standards it would be considered a 'high kill' shelter as they are forced to play a shell game with limited space to keep animals, mostly dogs and cats.  There were nearly 150 dogs there today and in the hour or so I was inside and could observe, 4 more were brought in.  Much longer there and I would have been in tears thinking about all those sweet puppies being euthanized...  In those moments it wouldn't take much to turn me into the crazy eccentric that has 50 pets in the yard.

Photo courtesy of Fulton County Animal Shelter
The adoption fee for "Jerry," a Pit Bull (or possibly Pit/Mix of some sort) who will be renamed Tiger was just $20.  It was so low because this absolutely sweet, loving, bubbly-personality of wiggly, kissy puppydom has gone unclaimed and unadopted for more than a month.  He's got a stay of execution this long because his demeanor has made him a staff favorite and they kept voting him a reprieve hoping someone would come along and offer him the gift of a forever home.  Dogs that are older, frightened, sick, shy or aggressive don't get the extra chances.

By paying his adoption fee, I got to unite Tiger with his family today!

The adoption fee covers a general check up from their vet, all the shots needed to bring him current, treatment for any medical needs he might have, neutering and microchipping.  You also get a coupon for a free check up from a vet you choose from their list of a couple dozen in the area that participate in the adoption program.  Like I said, his fee was reduced to just $20 as a last ditch incentive to get him adopted.  Normally, for dogs who've not been there so long, the fee is $85.  And that's still a bargain for all that you get!

A little more about Tiger
He really does look like a Tiger!  He's 20X cuter than his picture...  And his whole butt wiggles when he wags his tail and curls into a snuggly little ball to lick your face in the softest puppy kisses I've ever felt.  You can almost hear him say "Kissing your cheek is like my favorite thing ever!"  And then he sees a tennis ball in the grass and is all about "A tennis ball!!!  Only like my favorite thing ever!"  Tiger greets everything with joyful enthusiasm.  He gets along well with any of the other dogs he's been penned or out in the play yard with.  I doubt given his age and history that he's had any training at all but he walks calmly on a leash already.

How has he gone so long without someone falling head over heals in love with him?

Tiger is going to make a wonderful pet!  And happily, he'll be well loved in his new home and spend many happy days romping in the yard chasing tennis balls... and maybe the occasional squirrel.

What I Saw at the Fulton County Animal Shelter
It was crowded, with as many as 6 dogs to a pen.  And noisy with lots of barking and many fans running full blast.  And so hot!  Most of the dog cages were, I'm guessing, 6 X 10 feet chain link enclosures in 4 long rows.  The first few pens in one row was gated off to allow for quarantine of  animals with that kind of need.  And there were some stacked crates (with towels in the bottom so they weren't on bare wire) for the very small dogs and cats.

I bet you're thinking it must have been stinky, too.  But it wasn't.  Everything, including the painted concrete floor, was very clean.  And it was well staffed by people who treated the dogs with great kindness and could speak with us knowledgeably about each of them.  Even the office staff where you step into another room to fill out the adoption paperwork and pay the fee knew the dogs by name and could speak intelligently about their special needs, temperaments, and any known history.

Other than the tugging on my heartstrings I would call the whole visit very positive.

And it made me decide that when we have old bedding and towels, I'm going to take them to the shelter rather than discarding or sending them to a thrift store.  And if we are ever throwing out working fans, that's who I'll think of first.  When we have money coming in more dependably, I may even purchase linens at garage sales just to donate and give these animals at least some small comfort in life.  It's such a little thing I can do and it will meet a very real need.  I would also encourage others both to donate and to go there when they are ready to add another set of furry paws to their family.

Pound puppies are awesome!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Hawg

Derek and I were out and about running some errands today that took us to a couple of neighboring communities.  One of them was Hiram, GA.  And on the way back out of town, on the aptly named Hiram Acworth Highway (a mostly 2-lane road that runs between these two towns), we looked at each other and said, in chorus, "I'm starving!  Let's stop and get some lunch."

That's how we ended up parked behind a many-times remodeled old home that is painted an eye-popping shade I can only describe as Pledge-can yellow.  Emblazoned in big bright red letters across the front it says "Happy Hawg Bar-B-Q and Catering."  Sounds like a classy joint, doesn't it?

Happy Hawg is everything you'd expect of a little roadside country diner right down the vinyl red-checked tablecloths.  The food is delicious, they bring out generous portions quickly and the prices are very reasonable.  We both had their special pulled pork sandwiches.  The buns were nicely toasted and the meat was smoky and tender.  Derek got french fries with his sandwich - fresh potatoes cut into wide strips and cooked crispy and golden.  I got both onion rings and potato salad with mine.

I'm gonna have to go back to Happy Hawg a few times just to figure out what in the heck they put in that potato salad!  You could park my fat backside in a big ol' tub of that and I'd die happy thinking I was in Hawg heaven...  I'm pretty sure the potatoes were baked, not boiled, and it was tossed with bacon crumbles and a good handful of chopped green onion.  The silky dressing wasn't exactly Ranch but that's the closest description I can come up with.  So good!

As impressed as I am with the potato salad, its yumminess pales when I start thinking about the BBQ sauce I drenched my sandwich in.  There was a choice... there were 3 squeeze bottles on the table:  a tomato-based sauce like most of us think of when you hear BBQ, a vinegar and herb-based sauce and a mustard-based sauce.

I've never had a mustard-based barbecue sauce before.


I'm still stuffed from lunch.  But that doesn't keep me from drooling at the mere thought of that sauce... Holy moly!!

After we got home, I started looking for recipes for mustard-based BBQ sauces and I found quite a few.  Most come with some caveat that they're pretty much a regional thing for the Carolinas and northern Georgia.  But don't let geography stop you... you really, really, really NEED to try this stuff at least once in your life!

This recipe from is what I'm going to use as a starting point to try to duplicate today's delectableness, except instead of black pepper I'm going to very finely mince a bit of jalapeno, red bell pepper and onion and cook them in butter (as was suggested in another recipe I read) or olive oil first.  My adjustments for the first trial:

Mustard BBQ Sauce

1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbl very finely minced jalapeno
1 Tbl very finely minced red bell pepper
2 Tbl very finely minced yellow onion
2 - 3 Tbl melted butter

Saute the jalapeno pepper, red bell pepper and onion in the butter until soft but not browned.  Add remaining ingredients and bring just to a boil whisking constantly.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust for salt, spices, sweet and tangy.  Cool to room temperature and pour into blender container.  Blend until perfectly smooth.  Makes 2 cups.

Use as a baste during final 15 minutes grilling chicken, pork or beef or as a dressing on pulled pork sandwiches or as a dip for fried chicken strips or nuggets.  Refrigerate any leftovers promptly.  Use within 2 weeks.